Setting the Record Straight

November 10, 2008

Right-To-Work Hurts Big 3

Automakers: Mind What You Wish For
     How can we lay the U.S. automaker crisis at the feet of the Republicans who were in control of the government for the past 14 years? How about this.
     The Big Three, whose method of operating has been, and is likely to continue to be, one of aiming for instant gratification, were aided and abetted by the Republicans and their decades-long drive to emasculate labor unions in the United States.
    That, of course, contradicts the conventional wisdom that has become a religion among the Big Three (why do we call them that any more—they’re the only three). The automakers have complained and complained the United Auto Workers and its demands on behalf of the union’s workers are what have hurt their industry.
    To be sure, the UAW did overreach in the heydays of the 1950s and 60s and became so strong they also became their own worst enemies and needed to be trimmed back a bit.
    But the UAW would say, and we would agree, that the Big Three were unable to compete with foreign automakers on U.S. soil because the foreign firms built their plants in “right-to-work” states. Whatever union that workers in those plants may have pales by comparison with the UAW.
    How did those right-to-work states come into being? In the wake of the industrial revolution born at the end of the 19th century, labor unions were formed to redress the greedy excesses of their employers who were operating as fief to serf.
    Until the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, workers and their employers thrived quite well with union rights to require workers to support the unions. Soon after the act was passed, taking away those union rights, 12 states enacted “right-to-work” laws and another 10 states have followed as Republican Party policy relentlessly defeated Democratic and union efforts to repeal Taft-Hartley.
    The result has been that average wages for workers in right-to-work states are 6.5 percent lower than those of their counterparts in states that have not enacted the laws. Of course, they attracted foreign automakers, and Toyota opened the first of its 13 U.S. plants in 1989. An overlay of right-to-work states today closely matches the map of what the red (GOP-voting) states before the election just completed.

National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation

National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation

    With the gas-shortage crisis of the mid-1970s and the popularity of more fuel-efficient and safer cars produced by foreign automakers, who also employed features U.S. automakers would have included had they not (thanks to the leadership of Democrat John Dingell) defeated congressional efforts to require them, Americans began turning to the better cars once made abroad, but now made at home with foreign-sounding names.
     As the 1970s crisis waned, Instead of looking ahead as Toyota and Honda did, U.S. automakers went for the bigger instant bucks and began pushing sales of SUVs and huge macho trucks, neither of which got anywhere near the gas mileage foreign makers continued to offer.
     And now U.S. automakers are asking for help from the same federal government they joined their GOP friends in beating on so unmercifully for decades.





September 5, 2008

Vet, CEO Or U.S. President

President Judgment, Judgment, Judgment

     Much is being made during this presidential campaign about military experience and executive experience as important criteria for serving as president. It is all a bunch of bunk.
     Those who make those claims are either unknowledgeable about the job or trying to fool you. Neither service has anything to do with being an effective president.
     A chart of the military and gubernatorial experience of our presidents of the past 70 years is revealing. Between Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, neither of which served in the military, all of our presidents did. So what?
     Only Dwight Eisenhower ever made any military decisions during his service. Only John Kennedy, George H.W. Bush and the would-be John McCain saw any significant action, and none of them actually made significant military decisions. Among all of the presidents we have had the past 70 years, which have served us best during times of military strife?
     Scratch military experience.
     Claiming executive experience in almost all cases means the candidate has been a governor of a state. So what? Maybe the odd one or two of them led a company, but who cares.
     Over that same 70-year period, we have had five former governors as president. FDR was one, but not until 1977 and Jimmy Carter did we elect another. Then followed Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. How did they serve us any better than the elder Bush, Gerald Ford, Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower and Harry Truman, who did not?
     Check the scenario to the right as one example of what a president faces and a governor does not. And neither does a company executive, who in that phone call would be told what is being done or has been done about the crisis at the plant because he or she relies on the expertise of those below him for snap decisions.
     Supporters of Sarah Palin struggle to tout her “executive experience” as qualifying her to be a heartbeat away from being president in a setting she has never seen and which she has acknowledged she does not understand. To support that idea, the analogy is drawn between a president of a country and the president of a company, a CEO if you prefer.
     The CEO can hire cronies, maneuver to get friends on the board of directors that would uphold his or her decisions, bribe people with lunches, plane trips and other favors, all of them legal in the private world, but illegal or impossible in government. The CEO’s aim is not to make money—he or she already has oodles—it is to try to accumulate more money than anyone else. The thrill for CEOs is in the making of money, not the having of it.
     Neither a CEO nor a governor has to elicit the help of peers to carry out a policy associated with his or her job. Each is on his own. A president, on the other hand, must conduct foreign policy by convincing his peers, heads of other nations, that his policy is the correct one. We all know what happened when former Gov. and CEO Bush tried to go it alone and how his peers view him today.
     A governor makes provincial decisions. Palin governs a state far more provincial than most; it has fewer than a million people even though it has the largest land mass. The object of the contrast she is intended to make—with Barack Obama, who has a similar number of years in elected office—represents a state of 13 million, but is one of only 535 contributing to decisions that affect more than 300 million people, and on international issues, possibly the entire world population and its future.
     Obama and other senators do not gain experience in making “executive decisions” by virtue of serving in Congress. The experience they do gain is immersion in national and international affairs, the very knowledge they need if they go on to serve in the White House.
     But most importantly, if one reviews the U.S. presidents of the past 60 years, one realizes there are no specific criteria to serving as president. It is a job that requires the ability to inspire people to follow, to develop policies that serve the national constituency and above all, backed by a lot of knowledge and at least a little experience, but most of all, judgment, judgment, judgment, but most of all, judgment based on knowledge.


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